In what has been described as a game changer in the provision of healthcare in the country, cancer patients now have a waiting period of just one week to receive treatment.
This had been made possible by the Rwanda Cancer Centre, which was launched in March.
It even gets better as radiotherapy and chemotherapy are currently offered on community-based health insurance Mutuelle de Santé and other private insurance.
Since the centre commenced operations at the Rwanda Military Hospital, over 500 cancer patients have been treated, with the majority receiving radiotherapy health services.
According to RBC, the new radiotherapy centre treats about 50 patients per day with many outpatients using Mutuelle de Santé.
Before Rwanda Cancer Centre, less than 10 per cent of the population in need of radiotherapy and chemotherapy services was able to access treatment before the new facility, said Dr Marc Hagenimana, director of the Cancer Unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre “The new technology for cancer treatment has significantly decongested the country’s biggest referral hospitals and Butaro cancer centre which only used to offer chemotherapy services to cancer patients,” says Dr Hagenimana.
“Though there has been not a survey conducted to identify the impact of the centre specifically to palliative care patients, we are certain that there has been a great achievement to cancer patients as a result of the new tech machines for radiotherapy, “says Dr Hagenimana.
“We have not been providing palliation in all the referral hospitals instead provide pain killers and send them back home to die or in palliative care association but now they can receive full treatment from the Radiotherapy centre though they can’t be cured,” he said.
“It has been challenging not only to the patients but also to the government where out of 100 cancer patients that needed radiotherapy services only about 25 of them could be taken for treatment abroad,” said Dr Francois Uwinkindi, director of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre.
“People whose cancer advanced beyond cure they can now access palliative care and radiotherapy treatment locally without sending them back home to die from there while increasing the burden to the family and relatives,” he added.
The health experts also appreciated the changed mindset of the general public where now cancer cases continue to be realised in large numbers, an indication of adherence to an early screening.
“The public should not be worried about increasing cases of cancer cases because it’s the only measurement for early screening. The more people go for early cancer check-ups, the newer cases are identified and treated before advancing,” said Dr Uwinkindi.
However, as the country registers success in treating cancer patients with more than 57 per cent of the treated patients covered by the universal health insurance Mituelle de santé, those suffering from other NCD, said to help them purchase expensive drugs should be covered on the same insurance.